WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Donald Trump used a short statement at the end of a bizarre campaign event to attempt to separate himself from the so-called birther movement questioning President Barack Obama’s citizenship, of which he had long been the most prominent champion.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” Trump said. “Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again. Thank you.”
So concluded Trump’s roughly 90 seconds of remarks at his new D.C. hotel. The statement followed a long, nationally televised procession of veterans and other Trump supporters speaking about the candidate, with Trump appearing nearly an hour late.
Birtherism, the questioning of President Obama’s citizenship and place of birth (and therefore, the validity of his presidency), first surfaced during the 2008 Democratic primary. Trump became the movement’s political godfather, forcing it into mainstream conversation in 2011, as he contemplated his own presidential run.
Trump has never disavowed his repeated questioning and innuendo about President Obama’s place of birth. Although it has not been a prominent issue of the 2016 campaign, Trump’s refusal to clarify his stance on the matter has led to persistent questioning and his campaign had hinted that Trump accepted the reality of the president’s American birth.
Before Trump’s event today, Hillary Clinton told supporters that he should apologize to the president, and to the American people, for attempting to “delegitimize” Obama’s presidency.
“His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history,” Clinton said in anticipation of Trump’s remarks today.
President and Mrs. Obama each largely shrugged off Trump’s acknowledgement of widely accepted fact today.
“I was pretty confident about where I was born. I think most people were too,” President Obama told a pool reporter during an oval office meeting.
“During his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the example he set. By going high when they go low,” Michelle Obama said at a Clinton campaign event in Virginia.
Most analysts view the birther issue as politically poisonous for Trump in a general election, particularly among African American voters.
Hours after Trump’s announcement, his campaign’s spokesman emailed a statement to reporters furthering the campaign’s argument that Clinton’s 2008 campaign was responsible for starting the issue – guaranteeing it continues to be a campaign topic.
It read, in part:
“Hillary Clinton didn’t tell the truth about her emails and she didn’t tell the truth about her campaign’s role in pushing these rumors in 2008. This pattern is never going to change, and it’s why nobody trusts Hillary Clinton.”
The current Clinton campaign strongly disputed any suggestion its 2008 iteration played any role in propagating the birther myth, pointing to fact checks that show neither Clinton nor anyone on her staff had any involvement with the rumor’s birth.